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Four things you can do to help homeless people during Storm Eunice

Storm Eunice is set to batter London and Wales with winds up to 90mph and snow on Friday with warnings that the storm poses a danger to life. Here’s how you can help homeless people on the street.

homeless people at risk during Storm Eunice

Extreme weather poses an even greater threat to people who live on the street with no protection from the elements. Image: Misael Silvera / Unsplash

Weather experts have warned Storm Eunice’s snow and strong winds pose a “danger to life” and that is particularly true for homeless people facing the elements on the street.

The Met Office has issued a rare red warning for London and parts of Wales and the south-west of England with winds of up to 90mph set to rock the English capital.

A Cobra meeting was held on Friday to discuss the government response to the extreme weather with the army on stand-by to provide support.

Millions have been told to stay home to avoid the risk of being hit by flying debris and other issues caused by the storm’s high winds. 

Here are some things you can do to help homeless people if you know someone is out on the streets during Storm Eunice.

Ask if someone needs help

While warnings from leaders have been clear to stay at home during the storm, if you are out and about and see someone who needs help or know someone who is outside, Homeless Link has called on people to support rough sleepers with the message: ‘Don’t Walk By’.

While you shouldn’t put yourself in danger, the advice if you do see someone on the street is to smile, stop and say hello and ask how the person is doing.

Rick Henderson, CEO at Homeless Link, said: “Please don’t just walk by. Unfortunately, many people are used to seeing people sleeping on the streets, meaning they often walk by without noticing. But extreme weather conditions like we are seeing at the moment can be really dangerous for people sleeping rough.”

Check if your local council is operating SWEP

The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (Swep) allows councils to offer shelter to homeless people in the face of extreme weather, where it be extreme heat or cold or winds like Storm Eunice.

Many local authorities have already acted on Thursday, including in councils in Bournemouth, Medway, Stoke, Stratford, Worcestershire and Cheltenham.

Swep is also in place across London. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan invoked it on Thursday before The Met Office upgraded the English capital to a red warning in the early hours of Friday.

He said: “I urge all Londoners to stay at home, do not take risks and do not travel unless it is absolutely essential. 

“City Hall is in close contact with key agencies across the capital and our city is as prepared as possible for any potential impacts of Storm Eunice.”

While there is guidance in place on when Swep can be brought in but there is currently no overriding legislation forcing councils to act.

If you are concerned about a rough sleeper or know someone who is outside during the storm, contact your local authority to see if Swep is in place.

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From here, you or council outreach teams will be able to direct people to a place of safety.

Homeless Link’s Henderson added: “It’s hard for services to know the whereabouts of everyone sleeping on the streets so, in conditions like these, members of the public have a role to play in providing vital information, giving local authorities and homeless services the tools to find and accommodate people. A few minutes of your time could save someone’s life.”

Check if local charities are also offering shelter

While most shelter from extreme weather is provided by local authorities, some local charities may also be providing safe spaces for people to shelter from the storm.

For example, Coffee4Craig in Manchester is opening its doors on Friday to protect people with nowhere to go.

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If you are concerned about someone check in with your local homelessness charities to see if they are providing any particular support during Storm Eunice.

You may also be able to donate warm clothing, blankets, hot water bottles or other supplies to help out if the charity needs them.

While Swep might be in place, local authorities and frontline workers might not be aware of everyone out on the streets.

There are a couple of things you can do to protect them. If it is an emergency and there is an immediate threat to the person’s safety then dial 999 to contact emergency services.

But, for non-emergencies you can use the StreetLink app to let local homelssness outreach teams know that someone is out sleeping rough in England and Wales.

Alerts can be sent through the StreetLink website or using the StreetLink app, available on Google Play or the App Store.

When making a referral, it’s important you provide the following details: 

  • A specific location for the rough sleeping site. You can do this by using a map to pinpoint the exact location and then providing a written description of the location. 
  • Details of the time that the person sleeping rough was seen at the location. 
  • Any information about the person sleeping rough that will help identify them. Such as; gender, approximate age, what the person looks like and what they were wearing. 

“For situations that aren’t deemed an emergency, people can make an alert via StreetLink or contact their local authority directly. However, in the case of an emergency people should call 999. It’s also important to note that the plea only applies if people feel safe to approach someone, no one should put their own safety at risk.  

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